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Honestly, i dont incorporate this into my productions much, but these are really fun to setup a drum rack with and jam the fuck out. Very nice response and i like the looper on it.
Pad quality is functional, but not spectacular. The fader is a nice touch, but in general this isn't worth it's price tag, especially with the dearth of free programs that come with it. (Come on, not even MPC essentials? get it together, akai.)
One of the biggest drawbacks for my workflow has always been drum programming. I've spent many hours wondering how I could make my drums more expressive (Other than just piano rolling them to death) I found the MPD-18 at a local pawn shop so $30 well spent. I find that more and more this gears function goes beyond expressive drum programming. I've been using it as a secondary synth, I will have the same sound bed playing in 2 different octaves at the same time. Probably not the most cutting edge thing to ever be done, But it works for me. I highly recommend this piece or something similar.